'La chute de la famille Murat, à Naples, m’a ruiné par des tableaux perdus ou vendus sans être payés; ce qui a cause un dérangement si grand dans mon petit ménage que je ne l’ai pas encore réparé, à cause de dettes que j’ai dû contracter pour vivre dans un malheureux moment où je ne pouvais pas vendre un seul tableau. Je fus oblige alors d’adopter un genre de dessin, (portraits au crayon), metier que j’ai fait à Rome près de deux ans.'1
(The fall of the Murat family in Naples, has ruined me through lost paintings or sales which have not been paid for; which creates a disturbance so great in my little household that I have not yet repaired, because of debts that I had to take to live in that unhappy moment when I could not sell even a single painting. At that moment I was obliged to adopt a type of drawing (pencil portraits) a job that I have been doing in Rome for nearly two years.)
Little did Ingres know that some of these portraits au crayon which he describes so summarily and that he must surely have regarded as a necessity rather than a momentous artistic endeavour, would come to be regarded as some of his greatest graphic works.
The present drawing depicts a curly haired and rosy cheeked John William Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, at the age of 5, who just two years later would become the 7th Earl of Sandwich. He is portrayed with his right hand resting on the head of a retriever, while in his left he holds a whip which Sir Brinsley Ford delightfully describes as 'presumably intended for a (spinning) top and not for the dog on whose back it would descend more ineffectively than a feather'.2 Ingres portrays the stylishly dressed young gentleman in a pair of silk pantaloons with his delicate feet and minute stature highlighted by his proximity to the neighbouring hound, which, obediently seated, almost reaches the height of Hinchingbrooke’s shoulders. The inclusion of a dog in the present work is not uncharacteristic of Ingres as he also introduced them into a number of other drawings, perhaps most famously his portrait of La Famille Forestier,3 now in the Collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris. However, the dogs in these other drawings dans le goût français are so unobtrusive, their addition, more often than not, being purely symbolic, that one could be forgiven for barely noticing that they are there. This certainly cannot be said in relation to the present work, in which the dog is so comprehensively modelled that it has been suggested that its prominence must surely have been at the behest of an English patron ‘who as a rule prefers to commission the painting of his favourite horse or dog rather than that of his wife or child’.4 As it is, this portrait is almost prophetic, both in the inclusion of the whip and the dog, as the sitter went on to become a distinguished Master of the Buckhounds in 1858. Based on this knowledge one cannot help but believe that the young boy’s enthusiasm for dogs may well have been so abundantly clear, even at a relatively young age, that Ingres was inspired to include the ever obedient retriever in his portrait.
The Montagu family must have been notable English patrons to Ingres during their time in Rome, as along with the present spellbinding portrait of the young Viscount Hinchingbrooke, Ingres also executed, the previous year, a spectacular double portrait of Hinchingbrooke’s sisters, The Ladies Harriet Mary and Catherine Caroline Montagu.5 The timing of these two Montagu commissions came at a moment when Ingres was in a particularly impecunious state and though the monetary benefit that the artist derived from this work would have been relatively modest it would undoubtedly have been most welcome at this challenging stage in his career. Judging by the two Montagu commissions Ingres’ perilous financial affairs seem to have had no negative consequences for the quality of his work, and both drawings are spectacular demonstrations of Ingres’ prodigious talent both as a portraitist and a draughtsman. In the present work he uses a wonderful combination of his deft and detailed touch in some of the most delicate passages of the portrait, such as the boy’s face and hands, whilst also demonstrating a far freer hand in areas such as the carpet on which Hinchingbrooke stands. Unusually Ingres has also used very delicate touches of red chalk in the child’s face, adding a rosy hue to his complexion, a technique that is, as far as we are aware, unknown in any other portrait drawings by the artist.
It is of little surprise when one looks at the technical accomplishment of the present work that Ingres’ popularity soared amongst British visitors to Rome in the years 1815 to 1818, though in wonderfully Gallic fashion he was known to have somewhat resented the attention that his portraits au crayon afforded him, deeming these wonderful creations, somewhat ironically, as an inferior art form to the large scale history paintings that he believed would generate him the recognition he so dearly craved. However, despite Ingres' self-deprecating attitude towards these works, Philip Conisbee quite rightly describes the results as standing 'among the great portrait drawings in the history of art; marvelous, often witty documents of a particular time, place, and social caste'.6
1. A.-J. Boyé, called Boyer d’Agen, Ingres, d’après une correspondance inédite, Paris 1909, p. 35
2. B. Ford, op. cit., p. 7
3. See L.-A. Prat, Ingres, Paris 2004, p. 77, no. 4
4. B. Ford, op. cit., p. 7
5. See H. Naef, Die Bildniszeichnungen von J.-A.-D. Ingres, Bern 1977, vol. IV, pp. 289-290, no. 158, reproduced fig. 158
6. See G. Tinterow and P. Conisbee, Portraits by Ingres: Image of an Epoch, exhib. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999-2000, p. 111
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